Art of Africa

The lat­est de­vel­op­ment on Cape Town’s blos­som­ing V&A Wa­ter­front is the con­ti­nent’s first mu­seum of mod­ern African art.

Gourmet Traveller (Australia) - - News - zeitz­mo­­seum

At the heart of the new Zeitz Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art Africa, opened last month at Cape Town’s Vic­to­ria & Al­fred Wa­ter­front, is a spec­tac­u­lar atrium shaped like a grain of wheat, carved from one of 42 con­crete si­los and lit like an “in­dus­trial cathe­dral” by a glass roof.

Built in 1921 and ly­ing empty for the past 27 years, the city’s land­mark grain silo com­plex now houses 80 gal­leries of con­tem­po­rary art from Africa and its di­as­pora, the first mu­seum of its kind on the con­ti­nent. Spread over nine floors, the de­vel­op­ment in­cludes cen­tres for film, pho­tog­ra­phy and art education. Much of the col­lec­tion is owned by for­mer Puma CEO and en­tre­pre­neur Jochen Zeitz.

The chief chal­lenge of the $50 mil­lion project, says Bri­tish de­signer Thomas Heather­wick, whose com­pany Heather­wick Stu­dio man­aged the con­ver­sion, was to find a way to carve space within the 10-storey “tubu­lar hon­ey­comb” with­out “com­pletely de­stroy­ing” the her­itage-listed build­ing.

Guests at The Silo Ho­tel, opened ear­lier this year in the com­plex, have had a bird’s-eye view of the mu­seum’s de­vel­op­ment. It’s one of 22 his­toric landmarks in the 123-hectare V&A Wa­ter­front span­ning en­ter­tain­ment venues, and com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment, flanked by a work­ing har­bour and the city cen­tre.

Among the launch ex­hi­bi­tions are early-ca­reer ret­ro­spec­tives of work by Zim­bab­wean artist Kudzanai Chi­u­rai and Nandipha Mn­tambo from Swazi­land. High­lights in­clude Isaac Julien’s ni­ne­screen pro­jec­tion Ten Thou­sand Waves and To­golese artist El Loko’s ver­tig­i­nous in­stal­la­tion of nine huge etched-glass discs on the f loor of the rooftop sculp­ture gar­den.

Vis­i­tors can book a ta­ble at the rooftop restau­rant for fine views of Ta­ble Moun­tain and then plunge into the un­der­ground tun­nels once used to trans­port grain be­tween si­los. The tun­nels house a re­cre­ation of the found-ob­ject in­stal­la­tion that won An­golan pho­tog­ra­pher Ed­son Cha­gas the Golden Lion at the Venice Bi­en­nale in 2013.

The wheat-shaped atrium of the Zeitz Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art Africa re­calls the build­ing’s for­mer life.

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